FRAME OF REFERENCE 2010
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR I was struck recently by an article I read in the New York Times Magazine. The essay was about how much our generation has changed since the baby boomers. We are apparently changing the status quo by getting married and finding steady jobs later. It depicted us as lost in indecision. We live in our parents’ homes longer, chose to travel without reason, and don’t seem pressured to settle. To us this isn’t shocking. Most of us expect to change jobs many times after college, have no immediate plans of marriage, and many delay these things by going right on to grad school. This doesn’t mean there isn’t in fact any pressure on us, because there is, but we chose to deal with it differently. For our parents there was an urgency to become independent adults with jobs and “real lives,” it’s what defined them. Today, we look to our twenties for inspiration and freedom to hone our art. We do consider ourselves adults and with that we take on the responsibility of living to our standards. Perhaps it’s naïve, but I think looking toward our expansive twenties with hope is good. We have our whole lives to be tied down to something and should spend our youth freely and explore. Travel just because you want to. Move because you can. Try new things and don’t be afraid to fail because you have nothing to lose. And enjoy this year’s Frame of Reference, written by twenty-something-year-olds who explore their own commitment to art. Best, Alexandra Byer
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FRAME OF REFERENCE STAFF
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Editor in Chief: Alexandra Byer
p4 - Manifesto for Cinema in the Age of Digital Production
Contributing Writers: Greg Chang Dana Covit Josh Gleason Miles Gordon Alyssa Hawn Fred Loguidice John Wedemeyer
p5 - Top 10 Movie Soundtracks of All Time
Covers by: Josh Gleason
p10 - Insiderâ€™s Guide to Film Jargon
Photography by: Hannah Spangler
p6 - Fairytales of a Darker Nature p7 - Film Student Photography p8 - Charlie Kaufman: Careening Style & Complex Trials
p11 - Sex, Love, and Football p12 - The Rules of the Game and the Politics of Simulation
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Manifesto for Cinema in the Age of Digital Production by Joshua Phillip Gleason
As a young filmmaker, I am constantly searching for the ideals I hold to be
essential to the art of creating cinema. Every cinephile knows the revolutionary theories of Soviet filmmakers and the breakthrough techniques made popular by New Wave auteurs. Many today know the strict and austere tenets of the Dogme 95 group. As part of my own evolution and the state of filmmaking today, here is my set of ideals for the art and craft of film at this stage. I propose that filmmakers today reject the cinema of the mindless. Society has reached a point of complacency and cinema cannot stand for this. The word itself comes from kinema, the Greek for “movement”. Art needs to motivate education. Not necessarily provide the education, just necessitate knowledge to understand it. To do this, filmmakers must be educated at a high level. This is no call for credentials. This is a call for filmmakers that read, watch, and absorb. Read history. Read philosophy. Read of scientific exploration. Turn this knowledge into art. Make society think. Reference pop culture and high culture. Make society aware of the world around them. I propose that filmmakers today use music non-diagetically. Non-diagetic sound – music more specifically - provides a mood. If music is our soul, cinema is our dreams. Our dreams are intimately connected to our souls as music should be intimately connected to the image. An interesting film will never be objective, and music can be your guide to tapping into the souls of the viewers to make them feel something intangible. I propose that filmmakers today embrace the long take sparingly and effectively, as the great filmmakers of the past. Filmmakers today use it for its novelty, ironically making it banal. Realize that there must be a purpose for it. One of those is capturing a moment that cannot be created. Robert Altman was a great proponent of those magic moments of cinema that were unscripted and captured on celluloid – someone sneezing during their line, dropping food on their lap, or unconsciously stumbling on their words during an intimate moment. These are all good things. These happen in real life and should be the moments that connect the fantasy world to the realm of the everyday because they break our perception of the monotony of the diagetic world and the real world when they occur respectively. The long take also creates tension or awkwardness. Use this effectively to enhance mood, character, or narrative. Make sure it has a purpose.
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I propose that filmmakers today embrace digital media only after learning how to properly use it. Film is the ultimate art form combining qualities of painting, photography, music, and theater. Film is also a technical skill. One must learn how to develop a story and tell it cinematically first. If you are a serious artist, learn how to use digital media to create films, not YouTube series. The RED and many Prosumer cameras can come close to film with proper training and knowledge of the medium of film cameras, film stock, and lighting. If you don’t know about those things, don’t try to make your video look like film. If you do, then make sure you have the right equipment. For the producer and directors’ sake: Digital video is cheaper to shoot, more mobile, and much quicker to reload than film – all it takes is the swap of a card. For the cinematographers’ sake: Digital filming allows for shooting in low light conditions – lower than most film stocks today can handle, even with the greater latitude afforded than in the past. For the actors’ sake: Tony Bill says that, “With digital, there is no more rehearsal. No difference between rehearsal and performance, because rehearsal is performance.” Actors are given more flexibility and the director does not have to be afraid of wasting time or money capturing these experiments. He also mentions the ability of digital cameras to allow for things that film made difficult such as no more need to worry about hearing camera noise on close ups. The reduction of camera noise overall allows the actors to become unaware of the presence of the rolling camera. If you’ve ever seen Bill Greaves’ Symbiopsychotaxiplasm, you can see the actors describe the panic incited in their hearts when the film begins to roll. Digital production has many advantages and will continue to advance in the coming years. I propose that video be taken for what it is. Video is everywhere – embrace it as an aesthetic, not as film. Regular consumer cameras, digital cameras, camera-phones, etc. have their own look to them. Use it wisely. Invent. Create something truly new. Art moves retroactively. Photography tried to look like painting. Film tried to look like photography. Video tries to look like film. One day, I think we will embrace it and have to live with it. We already do for reality television. Documentary films have already gotten us used to the aesthetic qualities of video and the quick zooms and focus finding involved. We, the people, can adapt our viewing sensibilities, but the men and women behind the camera must truly think about how to creatively use digital technologies and it’s technological advantages. We are rapidly approaching a point of acceptance or fracture. The latter seems inevitable. www.hopkinsfilmfest.com
1. Star Wars: A New Hope - The soundtrack is by John William who my classicalguitar-performance-major friend calls an untalented hack. My friend is an musical elitist. Regardless of whatever criticism, can you imagine what Star Wars would have been like without the music? John Williams' majestic classical soundtrack more or less MADE the movie by tempering what could have been a ridiculously campy sci-fi experience. Oh, just think of when the fanfare blares out as the intro rolls in and just before a starcrusier passes by overhead, or how the strings swell as Luke watches the binary sunset on Tatooine yearning for a destiny he can feel but not yet understand.
the debut LP of The Swell Season, the band made up of the two leads from the film. The music is great, featuring pianist Marketa Irglova and the Frames' lead singer Glen Hansard singing his face off. The movie is really touching - the story of improbable and impractical love. With all the songs on the soundtrack making an appearance, it's a borderline musical. But it's that happy-go-RAINBOW Rodgers and Hammerstein bullshit. Instead it's the sad indie rock bullshit instead. Damn, it is a musical isn't?
6. Forrest Gump - The soundtrack for this movie is just a list of awesome classic pop music. The artists on this soundtrack include Elvis, Wilson Pickett, Joan Baez, 2. Lawrence of Arabia - The score for the film was done by Maurice Jarre. The CCR, The Four Tops, Aretha Franklin, Dylan, The Mommas and the Papas, The Beach most incredible thing for me in this movie are the wide, wide, wide Boys, Duffalo Springfield, The Doors, Simon and Garfunkel, Jefshots of the desert with the movie's theme swelling majesticalferson Airplane, Harry Nilsson, The Supremes, Randy Newly. I could almost feel the hot desert air, under the clear man, Lynyrd Skynard, Fleetwood Mac and Willie Nelson blue sky, on top of a smelly old camel. The theme is just among others. It's just a great soundtrack to play durTop 10 Movie Soundtracks of All Time incredibly epic, fitting for film. The music also morphs ing the summer and pretend you're a history-shaping, with T.E. Lawrence's descent into the terrifying darksemi-retarded, lovable loaf with a heart of gold to. ness of the war he's a part of. Also as a snarky side by Greg Chang note: the soundtrack is what helped me figure out 7. Stop Making Sense - Is this cheatwhat the mood at a given point in time in the film was ing? TALKING HEADS RULE! (in arbitrary order) given that Peter O'Toole's acting generally confuses me. 8. Garden State - This movie introduced Natalie Portman to 3. Eyes Wide Shut - Stanley Kubrick's films generally have The Shins, and The Shins have since been trying to recapture that very memorable scores or soundtracks. Despite how awesome that moment ever since. Unfortunately The Shins won't "change your life," but fanfare from "Thus Spoke Zarathustra" is in 2001, I think his use of "Waltz no. 2 what the movie and the soundtrack did was to encapsulate a moment in time. Just like from Jazz Suite no. 2" by Shostakovitch in Eyes Wide Shut as his best use of mu- Singles did or The Breakfast Club or Saturday Night Fever. Like it or not, this movie ensic. Eyes Wide Shut is a "psychological thriller" to say the least (I call it a "mind- capsulates and aspect of the zeitgeist of anyone between the ages of 18 to 30 today. fuck flick"). The waltz acts as the theme for the film as offers a brooding tune that feels dark and mysterious, especially as the lead woodwind (is it a sax? per- 9. Yellow Submarine - This had to be on my list. This movie, along with Magihaps an English horn or oboe?) plays the meandering melody, very much paral- cal Mystery Tour, both collectively represent the era of the Beatles that music snobs leling Tom Cruise's characters' own meandering (and often disturbing) journey. are allowed to like because it's not the mindless "pop" of their early years. It's just as wacky and silly as the Beatles were but still tells a coherently fun story. 4. Pulp Fiction - Quentin Tarantino is what he is. Call the man what you will, but the man Plus, one of my favorite Beatles songs comes from this soundtrack, "Hey Bulldog!" has sharp taste. I don't know how but he somehow created a very specific vision of 1980s Los Angeles with surf rock, "Jungle Boogie," Chuck Berry and an Urge Overkill cover of 10. Stranger Than Fiction - I love this soundtrack as much as I love the movie. It promNeil Diamond. None of these things scream 80s LA to me, but yet somehow it all does in inently features one of my favorite bands Spoon. It couples a few Spoon songs and the the context of this film. While a lot of films are guilty of using music to convey the mood, few original soundtrack recordings were composed by lead-man Britt Daniel. Between this one the music paints the scene, letting the characters do all their own conveying. the soundtrack, Will Ferrel not playing the typical "Will Ferrel character," and Maggie Gyllanhaal (I <3 Maggie), the music works very will meshing with the film giving it a nice 5. Once - This soundtrack served two purposes: one as a soundtrack, and another as quirkiness that works nicely in this romantic comedy. It's a perfect date movie if you ask me. www.hopkinsfilmfest.com
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FAIRYTALES OF A DARKER NATURE: Slasher Films as Morality Tales by John Wedermeyer Originally
intended as a sort of stress release for a teenager’s fear of untimely death, Friday the 13th is insistent on presenting Voorhees’s deranged motives for revenge as we watch her slowly off a group of dissolute teenagers. Playing the film as a revenge film against immoral teenagers makes the message difficult to miss and more understandable, or justifiable. However, the film is ultimately less effective than Halloween. John Carpenter’s film is so terrifying and iconic because of the anonymity of the setting,
In the early years of cinema, the horror genre was populated by monsters and mad scientists, and was set in the shadows of Gothic castles, tombs, and other innately macabre locals. It wasn’t until the 1970s when films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) and Black Christmas (1974) began to bring horror into the modern era. Suddenly horror wasn’t looming in Eastern European crypts, but right in your backyard. The protagonists weren’t scientists and explorers, but unsuspecting youths. Horror films began directly targeting the fears of their target audience. This culminated in John Carpenter’s 1978 masterpiece Halloween. Halloween was certainly not the first film of its kind; the cinematography borrows from Italian cinema and its plot was not remarkably different from other American horror movies like Black Christmas. Yet most mark the film as the father of the modern slasher genre. Why? The universal nature of the story and the mythology behind the film’s iconic killer Michael Myers. John Carpenter’s Halloween exists in a world where sex and drugs equals death, the virgin can stop the killer, and evil never really dies; in essence, the film is a morality tale. These themes struck a chord with audiences and after its release in 1978, Halloween spawned dozens of cheap, forgettable attempts to cash in on the films success. Films like New Year’s Evil, Prom Night, Terror Train and April Fool’s Day, were all attempts to do Halloween again. There were, however, a few successful children of Carpenter’s work, the most famous being Friday the 13th, directed by Sean S. Cunningham in 1981. Friday the 13th functioned under the same moral code as Halloween but was far more overt, both in its message and its gore. While Michael Myers’ reasons for slaughtering teens remained terrifyingly unanswered, Pamela Voorhees, the killer in Cunningham’s picture, has a clear motive and back story to justify her murderous moral code: drunk teens having sex were responsible for the death of her son.
Michael Myers in Halloween changed the preconceived notions about horror film’s killers
Cunningham insists that the film is not a morality tale, but instead a fairytale. “As children we get fairytales, and the purpose of fairytales… is to take a child’s fears and put them in the safety of a story.” says Cunningham.1 While the film was originally
protagonist, and killer. Halloween takes place in Haddonfield, Illinois, a town that is representative of a thousand just like it. “It’s every town, it’s every place, it could be your town…”.2 The universality of the location creates a fear that is disturbingly close
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photo from http://my.spill.com/profiles/blogs/final-poster-for-halloween
to home. Laurie Strode and Michael’s other victims are also strikingly anonymous. The idea of the babysitter is where the film becomes incredibly identifiable to a young audience. Everyone has had a babysitting job or is friends with a babysitter, which is what makes the basic premise of the movie scary. The entire movie was pitched to its executive producer, Moustapha Akkad, as “the babysitter to be killed by the bogeyman”.2 But what makes Halloween so terrifying is the bogeyman: Michael Myers.
CREATIVE MINDS AT WORK
Michael Myers is what makes Halloween work, and what makes Michael Myers work is his simplicity. Unlike Pamela Voorhees in Friday the 13th, Michael Halloween exists in has no real motive. In Carpenter’s original script he is referred to a world where sex simply as The Shape, not a man, but a force. The and drugs equals incredibly effective flatness of his character is in stripping the message death, the virgin down to its essentials. Sex equals death. Drugs and alcohol equal can stop the killer, death. Immorality of any kind equals death. Any motive would and evil never really dilute that potency.
dies; in essence, the 1978 masterpiece, And, after the original the Halloween series has film is a morality tale lost it’s potency, primarily due to decision Carpenter made while writing the sequel that he blames on “a late night and too much alcohol”: He made Laurie Strode Michael Myers’s sister.2 Laurie is the object of Michael’s obsession and suddenly the rest of humanity is safe. The original was frightening because of the idea that it could happen to you, there was no reason for Michael choosing these kids and that was scary. Now, there is a motive: to kill the sister. The number of people with estranged psychopathic brothers is a lot smaller than the entire teenage population; the universality of the terror is gone.
Photos of Johns Hopkins films students on set. By Hannah Spangler
The Friday the 13th sequels, on the other hand, retain some of that potency and build upon it with the character of Jason. Jason, a deformed child who saw his mother murdered by one of the young camp counselors at the end of the first film, has vowed revenge on every drinking, drug-doing, sex having, teenager he can find. The child-like simplicity with which Jason views humanity makes him dangerous. Teenagers killed his mother, so they all should pay for it. Suddenly, terror is universal again. The problem with the series is that the terror becomes derivative and laughable over the ten sequels, making them more fun than frightening. Continued on page15 www.hopkinsfilmfest.com
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I like a little mystery in my movies. There’s no fun in something you get right away, certainly no intrigue in understanding it all at face value. Too many movies operate on mundane calculated formulas, such as the usual romantic comedy. And the thrillers and action movies with astounding special effects – ie Transformers, have somehow become mundane because we’ve seen it all before. While watching the extravagant preview for Roland Emmerich’s 2012, I had the realization about 40 seconds in that throughout all of the crashing buildings, collapsing wonders of the world and staggering destruction I had not flinched, gasped, or reacted in any way whatsoever. Shattered Narratives and the Desire to Connect Charlie Kaufman, the gifted screenwriter known for his idiosyncratic hand in creating such films as Being John Malkovich, Human Nature, Adaptation, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, stands out as one of the few people in the 8 - FoR
film industry today who creates stories far more nuanced than the average Hollywood flick. But what is it about these Kaufman films that make them so re-watchable? It’s certainly not sunshine and daisies. No, it’s the deep explorative nature of these films—their descent into obscure and murky waters, such as the mind and imagination, unreality versus reality etc. and the wild abandon (brimming with beauty and truthful emotion in particular) with which they are explored that brings the audience back for more.
intellectual). They are opposites in just about every sense: world view, life philosophy, approach to women, writing, and so on.
Real Mindfulness, Communication Breakdown, and Twin Affinities
is Donald really there? Yes; but the personality differences between the two Nicolas Cages— (both bizarre, overweight and balding) are so perfectly opposing that one could in fact be the projection of some inner id from within the other’s overwrought super-ego.
Kaufman has one main subject: the human mind, and similarly has one stream of abstracted plotlines: the mind and its various manifestations of “reality”. In Adaptation (2002), Kaufman’s penchant for dealing with complicated mental terrain is evident. Personifying the existential and moral crisis of the artist – to sell out or not to sell out – the film depicts Donald (an eerily way too peppy Nicolas Cage) playing direct foil to Charlie (also Nicolas Cage, here serious and
The casting of Cage as both characters makes us wonder:
Charlie K auf ma n: Careening Style & Complex T r i a l s by Dana Covit
Throughout the film, the boundaries between depictions of reality blur to the point that the two (reality, and its depictions) collide and intertwine. Before we know it, our “twin” protagonists Charlie and Donald, along with the characters involved in
the “novel-world” Charlie is adapting for film, are entangled in a wild and ultimately fatal confrontation amidst the Florida marshes. The narrative becomes dizzying as it leaps through time and location. The result is exhausting but fascinating, and at the film’s end, the viewer is not quite sure what has happened. But the film is such that it will make the curious and self-motivated (ie, you want to understand, and you want to make sense of complicated concepts) movie-watcher revisit it. This alone is a noteworthy condition of Kaufman’s style. Today, most people do not take the time to re-visit a film they don’t “get” on first viewing. And yet, Kaufman requires this of his viewers – he necessitates our involvement in his intricate text, and has been successful in doing so. And by now, we know this before we go see a Kaufman film, we understand we may not understand. Spotless Mind Gets Us Every Time Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) adopts a similarly sprawling narrative arc, zigzagging through time and consciousness. Kaufman’s
atypical yet intriguing plotlines rope you in early and keep your attention. Somehow they make viewers actually care to unravel the mystery, without being anywhere near mystery genre. The film opens with a couple—or something like that—Jim Carrey brilliantly cast as the fidgety and stumbling, constricted Joel, and Kate Winslet, blue-haired and almost violent in her outspokenness, as Clementine, involved in an odd interaction. Before we know it, they share a ride home after an inexplicable trip to a snowy Montauk beach. Cut to the next sequence and its nighttime, Joel is sobbing as the rain casts polka dotted shadows on his face while he drives the same car —but now Clementine is gone. What has happened? What has changed? He paces and shakes his head, wrings his hands, recounts a moment to friends: “[And then] she looks at me like she doesn’t even know who I am.” The friends exchange worried side-glances. “Why would she do that to me?” he asks in desperate disbelief. It turns out Clementine has www.hopkinsfilmfest.com
had Joel wiped from her heartbroken memory at a clinic called Lacuna. The unfurling of this secret leads Joel to seek the same ”memory erasure”— self-induced brain damage for the sake of self-preservation. And once the process is deep underway, with Lacuna’s technicians (Mark Ruffalo and Elijah Wood) stomping through Joel’s memories as he lay unconscious in bed, Joel realizes that he no longer wishes to go through with it. He then decides
he must do whatever he can to stop the process. In one tellingly powerful scene, Joel hopelessly begs the technicians in voice over to let him keep this memory, just this one memory as he kisses Clementine under the covers, telling her over and over again, “[she’s] pretty, of course [she’s] pretty.” The film becomes a frenzied cat and mouse chase between fleeting memories of childhood and intimate moments
awaiting their obliteration. The cinematography is spectacular –Joel skids in and out of scenes, the memory he has just left collapsing into darkness – a forgotten land behind him. Faces cave into shapeless, melted blurs and building rafters crash down onto the streets as Joel desperately calls after Clementine. She disappears just as she playfully smashes snow into Joel’s hair. The style is glancing, and invigorating, as the audience is
Philip Seymour Hoffman in Synecdoche, New York. Photo from allmoviephotos.com www.hopkinsfilmfest.com
taken along for the disjointed, whirlwind ride. But, we can’t get too close to any moment because it’ll be gone in the next instant. This is an interesting device throughout the film – the audience’s expectations are crucial to the movement of the plot. We care about these two hapless lovers, and that’s partly because we experience their love affair much like we might recall one of our own: fleeting and misplaced and slowly slipping away. The scenes are fanciful and melancholy at the same time, the music almost sing-songy, as their laughter rebounds joyously, but distantly. It’s a weirdly apocalyptic, sad sort of feeling. We know the end is coming as the voices within memories warp and fade, reverb and echo, and we hope Joel finds a way to avert the procedure in order to keep these precious memories he once was so willing to erase. As the film finally winds down, the screen fades to white, a departure from the usual fade to black (this is also seen in Kaufman’s directorial debut Synecdoche, New York; however, its to
a different effect. Much of that film was profoundly sad, and the white fade seemed to come as a relief). Epic Descent
Synecdoche, New York (2008) is the grimmest of Kaufman’s works, but it is also his grandest, most outlandish film to date. Kaufman crafts a story about self-fulfilling failure. But even more so, it is a story that reveals itself to the audience as being about each and every one of them, and about the precarious and desperate nature of being human. When Caden (played by Philip Seymour Hoffman) tells Hazel (Samantha Morton) it has only been a week since his wife left him, she sadly and bemusedly corrects him that in fact, it’s been a year. The silent slipping away of time is something we all know too well. For Caden, a dutifully struggling and sighing and hypochondriacal playwright from Schenectady, New York, his journey is a quest to define himself authentically in an ungraspable, inauthentic world. Through Continued on page14 FoR - 9
Insider’s Guide to Film Jargon
Ever feel inferior to film snobs when they throw out fancy words you don’t understand? Want to impress your friends and convince them you know everything about film? Want to win over Sophia Coppola’s heart? Well we can teach you how with this Insider’s Guide to Film Jargon.* Auteur - A director who is involved in every as- the world. Regarded in high esteem by cinephiles. pect of filmmaking and has an identifiable style. “Some people say Michael Bay is an auteur, but I Jump Cut - When two sequential shots in a film are disagree.” taken at different angles that change very little, creating a jarring and “jumpy” effect. Bogey - An extra on set who looks directly into the camera, thereby ruining the shot. Martini Shot - A Hollywood term for the final shot of the day while on set. C47 - A clothes pin. “I need four C47s!” Novelle Vague - New Wave cinema; an important move“Cover it in post” - A way of disregarding a prob- ment in film by French filmmakers in the 1950s and lem on set by saying it will be fixed in the editing 1960s, who were greatly influenced by Italian Neoroom, in post-production. realism and classic Hollywood cinema. Most-know films include Breathless and The 400 Blows. Criterion Collection - A lofty film distribution company that sells classic and “important” con- Post-Modernism - A favorite term for film snobs to temporary films, often in box sets that include throw around to describe films of the 21st cenrestored versions of the movies and director com- tury...Though honestly, most don’t use this cormentaries. The be all and end all for intense film rectly or know what it means. snobs. Mise-en-scene - A term used to describe the design Diegtic - Sound that has a visible source on screen of a scene in film. The mise-en-scene includes ev- a radio, stereo, voice, etc. “Scorsese’s manipu- erything that is within the shot or scene, from the lation of diegtic sound in Goodfellas is phenom- actors and their costumes to the set design and enal.” lighting. Film Comment - A magazine published by the Film Society of Lincoln Center that analyzes independent, art-house, and mainstream movies from around 10 - FoR
MOS - Shooting without sound *No guarantees about Sophia Coppola. www.hopkinsfilmfest.com
Sex, Love, and Football: An Examination of the Unusual Romance in Big Fan
Paul Aufiero seems to be the ultimate macho man. He worships Giants football, smack-talks regularly on sports radio, and tailgates every home game. He is the epitome of the stereotypical extreme football fan…or is he? At first, I thought Robert Siegel’s Big Fan was a comic jab against sports fanatics; however, after thinking about it for some time, it has dawned on me that this movie is about more than ridiculous, over-thetop football fans. Rather, Big Fan is a pitiful examination of a man whose football fetish by alyssa hawn serves as a substitute for his lack of sexual love. There is an interesting dynamic between Paul’s relationships with football and sex throughout the film, and it serves to challenge the stereotype that all manic football fans are macho men as Paul enters a tender, loving relationship with the sport of football. Upon first glimpse of Paul’s bedroom, it seems like the ultimate man’s room: it is messy and cramped, the bed is made up with NFL sheets, and there is lotion visibly placed on his nightstand for masturbation purposes. There are also football posters adorning the walls, including one of his favorite player, Quantrell Bishop (Jonathan Hamm), better known as QB, who is shown flexing and half-naked. While the posters seem to fit into the manly theme of the room, it is the combination of the lotion and the posters that raises questions. I would assume that macho football types would be more interested in viewing posters of cheerleaders while masturbating, and not pictures of half-naked sports heroes. But Paul has only images of football to surround himself with while masturbating, suggesting that his sexual energies are explicitly focused on the sport of football. Paul’s love for football comes off as more feminine than masculine—he has a loving, almost spousal relationship with football, in that he chooses to surround himself with it even in the most intimate of activities, like sex and sleeping. Paul’s uncontrollable infatuation with QB is also indicative that football is more sexually compelling to him than people. When Paul and his friend Sal (Kevin Corrigan) are out getting pizza, they see QB at a nearby gas station, and Paul freezes in mid-bite. He looks with awe and amazement at the opportunity before him—it is like love at first sight. QB represents the ultimate of football to Paul, and officially meeting this sports hero has the potential to fulfill Paul’s most powerful sexual desire. He goes through extreme ends to meet this guy, from stalking him in a car all around New York City to following him into the bathroom at a strip club. During one scene in the club, a stripper sits suggestively on Paul’s lap and offers him a dance. Paul barely notices her; instead, he is too busy focusing his energies on QB. He remains unwaveringly faithful to QB, so faithful that he is willing to ignore a significant number of naked women dancing around him. Rather than being the stereotypical womanizer that most macho men are purported to be, Paul shows sensitivity in his sweet and thoughtful devotion to QB. Even after QB kicks the crap out of Paul, Paul continues to manifest his passionate www.hopkinsfilmfest.com
love for football as he takes the role of the submissive woman and refuses to press charges against QB. Forget about male pride—football (as represented by QB) is Paul’s life and love, and he would never do anything to harm it. QB gave Paul a brutal black eye, but Paul refuses to acknowledge the cause and later claims to an investigator that he has amnesia, even though everyone knows he is lying. This moment is reminiscent of the well-known wife-beater scenario, when the husband hurts the wife and the wife chooses not to confess and tries to forget the situation. Paul proves himself to be more romantic than macho; he chooses love over money and justice, even if it is for a game that could only hurt him and never love him back. Even if their teams lose, manly sports fans rarely sulk for too long; instead, they get immediately pumped up for the next season. But Paul shows that he is more susceptible to emotional anguish than the average mega-sports fan. As the Giants start losing because QB is suspended, Paul acts as if he has cheated on or deceived a lover. There is one particular montage in the film where his distress is visibly expressed, in which images of Paul moping and even crying on his pillow are juxtaposed with ignored cell phone calls from his lawyer brother Jeff as well as images of a pensive QB, who is posing on the football field and highlighted by stadium lights. I interpreted these latter images as ones from inside Paul’s mind. These images of QB are almost pornographic: close-ups of his body parts (like his hair and legs) are shown, and sweat drips slowly and sensually down his forehead. These very intimate, sexual images are ones that the average football fan doesn’t really consider, but since sex and football are linked in Paul’s mind, Paul is more susceptible to thinking this way. Even though everyone knows that QB doesn’t care at one bit about Paul’s well-being, Paul feels compelled to give QB the benefit of the doubt and allows these images of the regretful, revealing QB to reconcile the fact that QB harmed him. Surprisingly, Paul is the one who feels guilty, showing more sensitivity than expected of a macho football fan. The only explicit sexual activity shown in the film is Paul’s masturbation, which he does twice, and each time it is linked with football. The first time is right after the Giants win a game and Paul gets a chance to rant triumphantly on Sports Radio. The success of his football team excites him sexually, and so he pleasures himself, since it is the closest way football can actually make love back to him. The other time Paul tries to masturbate is after the Giants lose and Philadelphia Phil calls sports radio to taunt Paul and other Giants fans about the Eagles’ recent victory. This time, Giants football fails to excite Paul sexually, and he can’t get it up. The fact that football affects Paul so much that it influences his sex drive is strange—macho football fans normally can’t attribute their sex drive to the reliability of their sports team, but football is the only thing that Paul can associate sex with. Big Fan is not your typical sports film; rather, it is an unusual Hollywood romance, in which the role of the girl is played by the sport of football, ironically considered to be one of the manliest sports of all-time. While many men claim to love football, it is rare that one fan would love it so much as to substitute it for sex and an intimate relationship with another human being. Paul is this special fan, and the fact that sex and football are inextricably linked in Paul’s mind successfully challenges my perception of what it means to be a macho raging sports fanatic. FoR - 11
The Rules of the Game and the Politics of Simulation
and the transference of violence to servile beings or trinkets among the aristocrats.
by Fred Lodguidice
The opening scenes are important to the development of the contrasting natures between the upper and lower classes. These scenes allow for a privileged moment of solitude within each group’s own world, whereas the majority of the film takes place during their chaotic rendezvous at La Coliniere. Thus, this sequence is responsible for establishment of the salient characteristics of both societies, without the simultaneous influence of either. The sequence begins with the raw push-andshove of the crowd awaiting Andre Jurieu’s return from an over sea flight. The dark chaos of the environment represents a certain animal helplessness among the common people, who are striving for contact with a socially elevated, heroic figure. The scene switches into Christine’s dressing room, which is ornate and spacious. Her maid Lisette is bending at her feat and fixing her dress; likewise, as Christine walks out into the hall, another maid is bending down tending to a few dogs. Christine floats through the space, asking whether she took the dogs out or not. The blocking of these opening scenes disturbingly designates Christine as a master of many servants - animal and human; the peripheral existence of the lower classes is made animalistic through their constant bending down. As for La Chesnaye, whose room Christine then enters, there is more of an emphasis on the simulation of mastery over people through the utilization of trinkets and new technology. This is made manifest through his fascination with the new “romantic Negress.” This theme continues throughout the rest of the Rules of the Game with regard to La Chesnaye, however his desire for pure simulation becomes motivated directly by his emotions following this scene. Christine tells him that she trusts him, and he rushed back into his room to make a phone call; believing that he has successfully manipulated her, La Chesnaye reaches for a trinket to play with while he calls his mistress. His affinity for controllable trinkets is a psychological trait representative of his desired mode of relations to his fellow men and women. He wishes to possess them and be able to activate them when he needs to it.
As Jean Renoir himself reminisces in a special interview regarding The Rules of the Game (Renoir, 1939, France), the initial reception of the film was a disaster.1 Parisian society had been so distraught over the portrayal of the French aristocrats in the film that the government banned the film for twenty years following its release. Renoir relates that one man lit a piece of paper on fire with the intention of burning down the theater at the premiere. What had managed to cause such an attitude of violence and repression towards the film? In an environment as tense and uncertain as the final stages of the party at La Coliniere, there seemed to be genuine fear of the poignancy with which the life of the bourgeoisie is captured. However, this poignancy is not necessarily achieved through strict realism in the world of the film. Rather, there are distinct elements of the mise-en-scene throughout the film that contribute to a hyperbolic representation of the characteristics and impulses of the aristocracy. Through an exaggeration of the qualities of both the upper class - represented by La Chesnaye, Christine, Genevieve, and the other socialites - as well as that of the lower class - represented by Andre, Octave, Marceau, Schumacher, and the other “domestics” - a dialectic is formed that makes authentic human contact possible within the space of La Coliniere. In general, the impulses of the aristocrats can be reduced to a desire for possession, control, and simulation; a visual hyperbole of these desires springs up around each of these characters, and defines their relation to the lower classes. The acting, blocking, prop placement, atmosphere, and dialogue in select scenes isolate this vital characteristic of the upper class characters. Another essential aspect of the mise-en-scene is Renoir’s use of natural and architectural “secondary” frames. These frames often portend the unification of two people or ideas via the control or suppression of that which is presented within the frame. These two considerations, in their sundry manifestations throughout The Rules of the Game, are responsible for the pervasive atmosphere of aggression and anxiety within the film; moreover, these two central aspects mutually create the palpable drive towards immediate repression 1 Renoir, Jean. “Introduction by Jean Renoir.” The Rules of the Game. 1939. DVD. The Criterion Collection, 2004
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The next two scenes convey what is perhaps the clearest juxtaposition of the upper and lower classes as Renoir intended. This contrast is made almost purely on the grounds of mise-en-scene. The first scene takes place in Genevieve’s apartment with her and La Chesnaye. The apartment is gaudy and wide. It is haphazardly decorated with Asian art and modern European furniture. Genevieve herself is wearing a kimono (at the same time she is complaining about foreigners). www.hopkinsfilmfest.com
While the apartment is spacious, it is also cluttered with an eclectic, extravagant mess. Overall, the same concept of possession is present as with Christine and La Chesnaye; foreign culture is objectified and commoditized in the atmosphere of the room, as if it was something to be acquired and flaunted. Spatially, Genevieve and La Chesnaye are placed on opposite sides of the room, representing the distance they feel between each other (La Chesnaye has come to end their relationship). Midway through their discussion, their faces are presented next to individual statues with stoic faces. These seem to give an aura of duality to each character, and therefore deception and two-sidedness as well. Their spurious charm and finesse contrast with the serious faces of these Asian sculptures, and thus imbue their characters with a certain falseness. The scene closes with Genevieve walking out of the frame (having gotten him to continue their relationship) and La Chesnaye grabbing for a nearby plant to pick apart and tinker with. Having lost control, he again looks to simulate control through something small and workable. The following scene begins after a brief clip in which Andre crashes his car with Octave in it, ostensibly trying to kill himself. They both move onto an open field, and the camera is placed at a slight upward tilt to capture the blank white sky. This white sky devoid of detail conveys the honesty of their discussion and the authenticity of each man’s character. It serves as a perfect counterpart to the cluttered showiness of Genevieve’s chic apartment: falseness to genuineness. As a passing note on the cinematography, one realizes that this scene is assembled primarily in raw close-ups and medium two-shots, whereas the previous scene was almost exclusively single medium shots of La Chesnaye and Genevieve. This factor also clearly displays the honesty and sympathy between Andre and Octave. There are also elements of naturalism in the scene that engender this tone. In the first medium two-shot, part of the ground is shown with tall grass coming up gently into the frame, however it is cut off in later shots in favor of a completely white background. Towards the end of the scene, birds can be heard chirping. By itself, this is only an aspect of naturalism; however, in the very next scene, which takes place at La Chesnaye’s home, La Chesnaye is holding a mechanical bird and fidgeting with one of its parts. This seems to convey a desire for the reality and openness of Andre and Octave’s world, but an inability to enter it from any other road than simulation. Upon arriving at La Coliniere, Christine decides to clear up any misconceptions about her relationship with Andre. She takes him aside and begins to talk. www.hopkinsfilmfest.com
Within the alternate frame created by their shoulders, Octave and La Chesnaye appear. La Chesnaye is nervous, biting his fingers, while Octave lingers over him inquiringly. The alternate frame becomes another means of expressing the desire to control the others at the party. In this case, we have a human frame created by Andre and Christine, which points to a minimized view of Octave and La Chesnaye: precisely the people who will halt their love at the end (Octave inadvertently). They are obstacles between Andre and Christine, inhibiting the progress of their love, and disturbing the proximity of their bodies. Gilles Deleuze speaks generally to the presence of the secondary frames in films in his book Cinema 1: The Movement-Image: “The great directors have particular affinities with particular secondary, tertiary, etc. frames. And it is by this dovetailing of frames that the parts of the set or of the closed system are separated but also converge and are reunited.”2 If one thinks of the elements of the set as being these four characters, this abstraction makes perfect literal sense in the context above. The four are separated into two groups - the frame and the inside - which eventually reconverge into two - Andre and Christine. 2 Deleuze, Gilles, Cinema 1: The Movement-Image, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 1986, 14
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Charlie Kaufman Continued from page 9
Caden, Kafmann explores the flaws to grapple with its most familiar
human consciousness concepts: the self.
After his artist wife whisks their four-year-old daughter away to Berlin, Caden receives a MacArthur “genius” grant and embarks on the defining artistic endeavor of his thus-far unfulfilled life. Caden enlists dozens, then hundreds, then thousands of actors to play various people in his life over the next 40 years, restaging vignettes of memories and experiences in a sprawling Manhattan factory space. He is compartmentalizing the people in his life, organizing memories for his own need and purpose (something we all do on some level each day). Somewhere in between, the actors who are playing real-life people swap roles, and again, reality and its depiction become at first muddled and then entirely inextricable from one another. At over 2.5 hours, the film coils itself into such surrealism by its desolate end that I was left with not much more than my gut response to it: have I ever seen anything else like this movie? The answer: an emphatic “No”. What’s
Yes, Kaufman has created a style all his own. He is an auteur when it comes to the films he makes. He has certain stamps of habit and flair, specific subjects that clue us into his watermark over the words or actions within a film. In his masterful complications, we understand his patterns. We can detect his artistic fingerprint in each screen play, in the characters… the subject matter… in the pacing, and yet, he is by no means handing his audience his “purpose” or “meaning” with this propensity for following (though peripherally, no doubt) a certain pattern. It isn’t always the same, and so on and on the wondering goes. He works in the abstract, and he certainly works with the profound. Kaufman’s daring approach to complex concepts, and the fact that he barely ever waits around to explain himself to the audience implicates the viewer’s longing to elucidate the film. The wonderland he creates only helps to involve me in the labyrinth. Kaufman films offer different levels of ‘enjoyment,’ specific to the viewers’ personal sentiments. Me, I like a happy ending. And if the ending is not happy per se, it’s got to be hopeful, at least a little bit. Maybe it’s my desire for escapism when ‘going to the movies,’ or a want to feel enlightened by the wisdom, or vision of a director or screenwriter. But whatever the reason, even if the entire film is dim and dark and stormy, a hopeful ending goes a long way for me. I loved Adaptation¸ felt deeply 14 - FoR
affected by the earnestness of Synecdoche, New York. But Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a movie that when I first watched it, I felt inspired. I got it – or did I? That tingling uncertainty made me feel like I must have gotten something from the film. I felt heady with a newly recharged belief that all memories are precarious, beautiful things; things which to be ‘stronger’ and more ‘productive’ people, we may hope to caste off, bury under lessons learned and ‘never again’s’ (lots of people when they first see the memory erasing services offered at Lacuna in Eternal Sunshine probably will think: Ah, if only). But they are also things which can inspire us, and lead us through a reality that is too often strapped within life’s formulas.
Rules of the Game Continued from page 13
The secondary frame of control and the hyperbolic mise-en-scene combine particularly well in the scenes which involve stage plays, towards the end of the film. The first stage play we are introduced to is a mountain setting that involves almost all the principal characters. Octave is in a bear suit getting whipped before a grand audience of aristocrats. Here, presence in the frame of the stage is equivalent to being controlled. The audience is receiving entertainment as servitude, meant to be controlled and to excite them from a distance. The play assumes the same role as a domestic servant to them. The bourgeois play being put on in the beginning provides a stark contrast, however, to the curious dance of ghosts and skeletons that follows it. From the reaction shots in the audience, one can tell that the aristocrats become sincerely frightened. The ghosts are not only fluid and ethereal in appearance, with even their parasols made threadbare, but are also capable of movement off the stage (out of the frame) and into the audience. While the happy bourgeois play which came before it symbolizes easily controlled satisfaction, meant to repress tension and provide a source of simulation, the ghosts and skeletons represent the uncontrollable truth of hatred being released. Their image is precisely so frightening to the upper classes because they are not enhanced, gaudy, or made attractive in any way: they are simply the natural image of death. Appropriately, this vignette ushers an age of actual violence in La Coliniere, where tension can no longer be transferred to simulatory devices or subjugated domestics. Octave’s bear suit, which no one will help him remove, plays an important role in expressing his relationship to both the upper and lower classes. His bear suit is equivalent to continual humiliation and servitude, as insinuated by Octave’s simultaneously being whipped at its introduction in the opening www.hopkinsfilmfest.com
play. He remains servile to the upper classes and to La Chesnaye because he still respects and is a part of that world. “No one will help him remove the costume” precisely because they want him to continue being servile to them. Once he removes the suit and steals away with Christine, he stands atop the front steps. These steps seem to represent a natural frame, composed of two globelike orbs. This image seems to suggest his unique placement in between the world of the lower class and the world of the upper class. Moreover, this seems to be the last surviving frame of control amidst the chaos that has ensued over the night. One can contrast the ruined frame that La Chesnaye sits in at the end, apparently left without the pleasure of simulatory activity (which culminates in his grand machine he displays on the stage). When Octave finally leaves the house, after finding out about Andre’s death, he walks through this frame with Marceau into the world to find his way alone, as he says. On the contrary, in a most carnivalesque manner, La Chesnaye re opens his doors to the company; this is effectively the re-opening of the frame of control to the guests, having eradicated the outsiders of the party who were responsible for providing a challenge to his impulses. Through a close examination of The Rules of the Game, it appears the most important strategy for representing the upper classes proclivity towards repression through simulation is a highly developed and meaningful mise-en-scene and a complex system of natural and human frames. From a beginning that solidified the traits of each societal world, the film uses these techniques to create a stunning symbolic rendezvous that pierces the psychological layers of each group and forces these parties to interact on a physical level. Over the course of the film, violence is passed through objects and onto people, ending in a tragedy that makes abstract manifestations impossible and the forces of repression contemptible.
THANKS TO OUR SPONSORS Post Typography Enoch Pratt Free Library
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Continued from page 7
For the past three decades, dozens if not hundreds of killers have stalked the silver screen, tearing a bloody hole into the culture of American youth. While few are as terrifying as the man who, in 1978, changed the face of horror, all of them have come baring the same message: If you do bad things, I will do something worse to you. This is what makes them fairytales; they are fun little stories that remind us to be good. And as long as kids enjoy being bad, they will keep filling the seats. 1.
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